April 22, 2022

This restaurant has been on my bucket list for a while now. Chef Dominique Crenn has become intensely well-known, especially following her MasterClass and appearance on Chef's Table. And this, her flagship, is a very difficult reservation to get. We counted 10 tables in the dining room - 1 seating per night. 

It lives up to the hype.

It helps to know a little about Chef Crenn. She is French, exuberant and romantic as the day is long. For example, take a look at our menu for the evening, which is entirely written as a poem.  Above our table sat another poem she wrote, immediately following her father's passing. His artwork adorns the entire restaurant. The menu QR placard features art from a local woman who dined there and was doodling some art. Chef Crenn saw this and commissioned her to work for the restaurant. She is a woman who loves beauty in all forms, and the restaurant is a complete expression of it.

She is also passionately committed to sustainability. You see that too - from the reuse of ingredients (such as the crab shells to make a broth), to sustainable wineries and fisheries and even being told how the kitchen uses glass storage containers (not plastic) and garbage is repurposed for compost on their farm. She is not playing environmentalist. She is deeply committed to it.

As such, the menu is pescatarian, for sustainability reasons. The restaurant doesn't even use beef or chicken stock. It's an impressive commitment that somehow, does not hold them back from delivering a meal that lives in the stratosphere.

The entire meal centers around Chef Crenn. From the poems and painings to family recipies ("This is Chef's Crenn's grandmother's bread recipe...") to dishes described from her own personal inspiration found within them. Even the name "Atelier" means "workshop" - an homage to her father's workshop she grew up in. One will find more meaning to eating here if they familiarize themselves with its namesake Chef.

Enough of all that. The food!

These are the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. Each one is literally breathtaking. Aside from the vision to create such beauty, the amount of prep work required to deliver a meal like this boggles the mind.

Flavors followed suit. This was high level cooking that produced some of the most memorable and delicious bites I have ever enjoyed. The shiso leaf/mole may be the most beautiful AND the most delicious dish I have ever had. Their presentation of French Onion soup is mystifying in its beauty and blows you away with the flavor combinations. Inventive, creative and delicious. I said to my dining partner: "THIS dish is why I eat at places like this." The pine needle wafer dessert (also in the form of a leaf) was also spellbinding.

Food that looks and tastes this good gives an inertia to the meal that can't be described. "If this dish was that incredible, what is the NEXT dish going to be??" This experience was bolstered by the excellent wines and a staff that was friendly, formal and real. (A terrific contrast to the staid service at Quince the night before.)

This is a place you could eat at again and again. It's everything you want high level dining to be. 

Chef Crenn's empire is expanding as her fame grows. I'm hopeful that she is able to keep this restaurant delivering at this high a level as she expands. Atelier Crenn is a special delivery of top notch dining. I am honored to have eaten here. 

Curpitan. Inspired by Chef Crenn's mother. White chocolate and cocoa butter shell, apple juice inside, creme de casis gel. It bursts in your mouth.
Oria bloom. Koshi curry rice tartlet, brown butter uni, goey duck, blood orange. I'll give you a few more looks at this dish. It's one of the most beautiful I have ever seen...
The flavors were interesting. So many layers so complex in that way, but I kept waiting for a burse of salt or citrus that would be typical. It wasn't there. I'm not saying that's wrong, just that my palate found it confusing for that reason.
Oysters and rose. 2 of Chef Crenn's favorites. Meyer lemon, sea salt, pepper, lime, compressed shallot juice...
A closer look...
I'm not sure if I got a dud with this one. There was no oyster, as far as I could tell.
Grilled oyster, shiso leaf, sorrel, pickled tapioca pearls. I don't know what shiso leafs are, but i know I love them. (See a few courses later.) This was excellent and very typical of many dishes - fresh fish counterbalanced with acid/pickle. For the most part, it worked really well, including this bite.
Alaskan king crab, pear butter, sea lettuce powder, badaban spice, sea foam made with yogurt whey. Wow! "Chef Crenn doesn't like to waste anything", so this was served with..
Broth made from crab shells, finished with coconut oil infused with coffee, tomato, garlic, herbs. This broth was stupid good.
Inspired by Yucatan. Tempura shiso leaf, blackened from a mole base. Indescribable. This may be the best bite of food I have ever had.
Beet ceviche with huckleberry jam. Very heavy on the pickle/acid. Served with...
Beets, fermented, dehydrated, roasted and then rehydrated in its own juices. Served with smoked creme freche. Reminded me of a very similar preparation at Eleven Madison Park. Theirs did NOT work. This one did.
White asparagus dumpling in green garlic tea, dressed with green garlic oil. I opted for the black truffle addition. I was going to joke that he should keep going with more truffle, but he did! They added an immense amount. Though his hand was not gloved when doing so - the only service error I noticed throughout the evening.
Buckwheat flour tart, vermouth with smoked white asparagus and koji, chicoree salad, gold leaf.
Their play on French Onion Soup. Burnt bread, carmelized onion gel, cauliflower ice cream, onion ash, green onion oil, escargot roe. Served with...
Cheese fat onion broth. An incredibly deep and gorgeous broth that takes 48 hours to make. It's all the more impressive that no beef or chicken broth is used. Yet the broth finds the depth you come to expect (and then some!). And...
Dehydrated buckwheat crackers.
Monterey bay grilled abalone, pickled mustard seeds, dehydrated savoy cabbage leaf, smoked mussel jus and parsley oil. There's that combination again - fresh fish and pickles.
Black cod dry aged 6 days then grilled on a yakatori grill, honey nisturtium glaze, green garlic sauce. This fish was insane. The cook was spot on, sweetness from the glaze, richness from the sauce. Absolute perfection. Served with...
Morel mushrooms, turnips, radish. Excellent produce (from their own farm), but this did not feel cohesive with the fish.
Bohobelle cheese, meyer lemon, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, greens from the farm. Beautiful presentation and rich! I didn't finish the cheese, but that lettuce was unbelievable. Just look at it!
Sun dot ice cream, sea buckthorn coconut sorbet.
"Dragons beard". Cotton candy, sunflower praline. Identical presentation to the one at e by Jose Andres. This didn't touch e's, but was mighty delicious still.
Spring wafer. Pine needle wafer macha tea white choc mousse huckleberry jam pickled huckleberry. "Like an ice cream sandwich", they said.
A look inside - this was so delicious!
Sorbet macha chocolate sesame puffed rice
Pecan chocolate, strawberry fields, pistachio pralines
As they guide you from the dining room to Bar Crenn for dessert, you visit the kitchen. The chefs are exuberant to see you, cheering as you walk in and delightfully lining up for photos. (We didn't ask. It's just what they do.) I can't imagine how many times each night they need to fake being so happy to meet people. LOL. We had a later seating, so the kitchen was clean by the time we came through, unfortunately. We also saw the pastry kitchen.
Fish aging for future dinners.

Comments(1)

  • Krissy Green

    September 8, 2022 8:30pm

    Hi, Dave! I’ve been following your food journey since seeing your posts on TFL group and just adore your culinary musings. Excited to see that Atelier Crenn was a wonderful experience, my husband and I are headed there next weekend!

    We’ll also be in NY during October (hitting Le Bernardin too!), do you have anything in particular you’re looking forward to at the food and wine event? Cheers!

    Reply
  • Dave Shacket

    September 9, 2022 10:48am

    Hi Krissy. Thank you for the kind words! You are going to LOVE Crenn. It's just brilliant. And super delicious.

    le Bernadin is really special as well. Not like any other Michelin place anywhere (that I know of) with what Ripert does. Be sure to get the wine pairing. Looking forward to my 3rd visit there in a few weeks. Where else are you going in NYC?

    For the NYC Wine and Food Festival, I am attending the Dario Cecchini dinner ( nycwff.org/cecchini_secchi/ ). I've always wanted to experience his stuff and won't likely be in his Italian neighborhood any time soon. Paired with a chef from Osteria Francescana? Should be pretty great.

    Thank you so much for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts. I can't wait to hear what you think about Crenn, le Bernadin and all the others!

    Reply

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